I’ve needed glasses since I was in third grade. I always had regular checkups, but it was only in third grade that my eye doctor finally recommended I get glasses. I was mortified. I remember crying and begging my mom not to make me get them. I would be such a nerd, right?
No, I was just a near-sighted child that needed some assistance seeing and while I did not wear them as much as I should have, I did get glasses in elementary school.
Fast-forward to middle school. My vision was only getting worse, and I needed another pair of glasses. However, this time, my eye doctor thought I was old enough for contacts. I was nervous but so excited to not have to wear my glasses to see. It took a few days, but soon I was completely used to wearing contacts and would continue to be until this year.
I am getting ahead of myself. So, as I’ve grown up, my vision has continued to worsen. At this point in my life, without glasses or contacts, I can focus to my own arm’s length and that is it. You know that game we all play with someone who wears glasses where everyone tries them on and tells you how bad they hurt their own eyes, and tell you how bad your vision is while you sit there, blurry visioned, waiting for them to give you back the lenses you need to see? Yeah, that is fun. In addition, there is the other game that people like to play with us near-sighted folks where you take your glasses off and they ask how many fingers they’re holding up. I can usually guess because my vision is blurry, not multiplied.
I went to college in 2012. The “hipster” craze had hit and now glasses were really cool, especially the ones with thick rims. However, my insurance covered one pair of glasses, or new contacts each year. I’d been choosing new contacts for so long, that my glasses were very out of style. So, I did what any normal 18-year-old, trying to fit in at college would. I went to the mall and bought a pair of clear-lensed, “hipster” glasses and wore them over my contacts. Yes, that is ridiculous. After all the bellyaching and whining I had done over my privilege for access to insurance and glasses in third grade, I chose to put thick-framed glasses over my contacts to fit in at art school. In addition, I got a fake nose ring and wore it until I had to guts to actually get my nose pierced, but that’s another story.
Unfortunately, due to my collegiate habit of sleeping in my contacts and generally just not tending to my health, I contracted conjunctivitis and was forced back into my old glasses while my eyes healed. I was mortified to be seen around Huntington, W.Va., dressed all artsy, with my artsy boyfriend...and out of style glasses. In fact, I would make him lead me around and just wander blindly holding his hand. In retrospect, I was way too stuck on my looks and the current fashions, but I was eighteen years old.
When it was finally time for new glasses or contacts, I got a pair of very “in-style” glasses ordered into my eye doctor’s office. They were thick-rimmed at the top, clear on the bottom and looked like I could have pulled them from an episode of The Twilight Zone. I was in love, my mom called them my “old man glasses.” I think she was probably right.
So, “hipster” and “artsy” glasses aside, I’ve relied on contacts for most of my life, including my career. I used to find it very difficult to photograph around the frames of my glasses. But, something happened in the past year and I cannot keep a pair of contacts in my eyes. For the first time in my life, it hurts, I cannot see, and my eyes water consistently. My eye doctor thinks it is some kind of condition...I think I just need a new prescription, but he is probably right, you know, like my mom.
When I first started having to wear glasses to the office, everyone complimented and barely recognized me. These days, it is just business as usual for me to wear one of my five pairs of glasses every single day. I get frustrated sometimes. Laying down and watching television is difficult in glasses. The earpieces hurt by the end of the day, including the bridge of my nose. They get wet and smudged in inclement weather and I have to wear sunglasses over them. Working out fogs them up to the point where sometimes I just go to the gym, put the glasses in my locker and squint my way around the machines.
I am only 25 years old, and my dream in life is to be able to afford Lasik eye surgery. However, as I write this column, whining and making fun of my former self, I realize the privilege I have had all my life to have the access to an eye doctor, much less twice a year check-ups. Not to mention, my parent’s diligent attention to my overall health. So, while I may need lenses to see, I count myself among the lucky ones and I find myself grateful that I can focus on this computer screen right now, thanks to some curved glass in frames that I wear on my face every day.
— Contact Emily Rice at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @BDTrice